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Ask-A-Doctor: Obadah Al Chekakie, MD

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Obadah Al Chekakie, MD, is a cardiologist specializing in clinical cardiac electrophysiology. Read along as he answers questions related to atrial fibrillation procedures.

What exactly is atrial fibrillation (AFib)?

It’s an irregular heartbeat coming from the upper chambers of the heart (atria). In AFib, the atria will quiver and beat fast and cannot pump the blood effectively to the lower chambers of the heart — increasing the risk of stroke, heart failure and death.

What are the main triggers for AFib?

The most common risk factors are high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, valvular heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Physical inactivity and alcohol intake are also major risk factors.

What’s the difference between valvular and nonvalvular AFib?

AFib is considered valvular in people who have moderate or severe mitral valve stenosis or a prosthetic heart valve. Nonvalvular AFib generally is caused by other things, such as high blood pressure or stress.

What is the most common procedure for atrial fibrillation?

Today’s first line of treatment is ablation, a procedure that can correct heart rhythm problems, also known as arrhythmias, by killing the tissue that’s causing the abnormal rhythm. This can help restore a normal heart rhythm, and can improve the symptoms, quality of life and chances of survival for many patients with AFib.

What is the function of the left atrial appendage?

The left atrial appendage (LAA) is a small pouch in the left atrium that can act as a decompression chamber when atrial pressure is high. When patients develop AFib, they

experience poor atrial contractions which, combined with blood pooling, result in clot formation — mostly in the LAA.

What is the left atrial appendage occlusion procedure?

For patients who cannot safely take blood thinners long-term, the best option to prevent clot formation may be to close off (occlude) the LAA so that blood cannot pool in the LAA and clots cannot get into your left atrium and your circulatory system, thereby significantly reducing the potential for stroke.

To learn more about Dr. Al Chekakie and the award-winning cardiac care offered by our team at AdventHealth in Kansas city, visit HeartCareKC.com.

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